THE BLOG

Move It or Lose It: The Tin Man Effect

06/21/2012 02:55 pm ET | Updated Aug 21, 2012

If we lived in Oz we'd be screwed. Especially if we descended from any of the story characters native to the L.O.Z. (Land of Oz). For instance, assuming the Lion's challenges were genetic, as distant cousins we could suffer from a spectrum of phobias and fortitude failures. As part of the Scarecrow's tribe, I imagine we'd have all manner of orthopedic challenges, vulnerable to stuffing loss at the most inopportune times. And as Tin Men and Women, you and I would rust up, frozen in our tracks, whenever it rained or we stood still for too long. Thankfully, we live in the real world.

But the "Tin Man effect" is still in play. If we stay still too long, we're screwed. I define the Tin Man effect simply with the old expression "Move it or lose it." In this case, the less you move physically, the more you lose in health. When inactivity becomes habit, we rust up (in a sense), slow down and become less vital. Like Oz's Tin Man, the effects of inactivity sneak up on us, slowly damaging our machinery and disabling our capacity. If you're an older-model human (like me), you know the T-Man's pain; if you haven't experienced it, you've surely witnessed it. The life pattern is common. As kids, we're bundles of energy, playing from dawn to dusk. But as adulthood sets in, our circle of work and responsibility grows and our circle of active play withers. The less we move, the harder it is to get moving... and before you know it... Bam! (Or rather, creak, creak!) The Tin Man effect is in effect! But an oil can won't fix the ills of our inertia. The negative consequences of inactivity include high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, fatigue, osteoporosis and respiratory conditions. Regular physical activity can help boost energy; control weight; reduce the risk of cardiac disease, diabetes and some cancers; improve mental health and mood, strengthen bones and muscles and ultimately, extend your life.

The Wizard told the moral of the Oz story and ours: "You had it in you all along." And that's good news. You don't need some magical instructions or a wizard's blessing to tap into your birthright of lifelong locomotion. It's really never too late to shake off the rust and return to your natural state of action. Here are 10 simple guidelines for starting and continuing an active lifestyle:

10 Principles for Active Living:

1. Make small activity promises you can keep, then keep them (e.g., "I'll walk around the block twice this week.").

2. Find a safe and comfortable place where you can work your plan without worry or inhibition.

3. Start with small doses of activity and increase the amount slowly over time, as it feels right.

4. Some activity is always better than no activity.

5. Team up with family, a friend, or co-worker to support each other and keep you moving forward.

6. Keep it fun and fresh by mixing up activities and exploring new options.

7. Invest in your new exercise habit by eating better.

8. Balance exercise and other activities with sufficient rest.

9. Be good to yourself and others by praising successes and forgiving challenges.

10. Keep your gumption on and don't give up -- you're worth it!

Here are some resources that will help you get moving:

So, thankfully there's no need to sweat the perils of Oz. But here in today's world, you need the brains, courage and heart to protect your health. Remember, move it or lose it -- beware of the Tin Man effect!

And finally, here's some extra information that the public health nerd in me had to share:
We're not alone. According to the World Health Organization, globally about 31 percent of those 15 years and older were "insufficiently active" in 2008 (women 34 percent and men 28 percent). The greatest prevalence of inactivity was in the Americas and in the Eastern Mediterranean regions. In both these regions, 50 percent of women were inactive, while the prevalence of male inactivity was 40 percent in the Americas and 36 percent in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Southeast Asian region has the lowest percentage of insufficiently active (women 19%, men 15%). In the U.S., a 2008 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey found that about 25% of adults did no physical activity during their free time (e.g., walking for exercise, gardening, golfing or running). Residents living in parts of Appalachia and the South were the most inactive. Alaska, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming were among the more active states. Worldwide, approximately 3.2 million deaths are attributed to insufficient physical activity each year.

For more by Dr. Craig Andrade, click here.

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